PULLMAN — Washington State football coach Mike Leach said Friday he has no intention of complying with two journalism organizations’ request he apologize for remarks he made to a newspaper columnist during a postgame news conference.
“I got to thinking about this: Do I owe anybody an apology?” Leach said after the Cougars’ first postseason practice at Martin Stadium. “Then it occurred to me that nobody likes to talk about the First Amendment like journalists, and then all of a sudden it’s only supposed to apply to them, but not supposed to apply to me.
“Then I did a little research on my Constitution(al) (rights) and was pleasantly surprised to discover I have First Amendment rights as well.”
Keith Shipman, president and CEO of the Washington State Association of Broadcasters (WSAB), had sent a letter Monday to WSU president Kirk Schulz and athletic director Pat Chun, requesting Leach apologize for his remarks to Spokesman-Review columnist John Blanchette after the Cougars’ 31-13 loss to Washington last week at Seattle. The letter, which was released to some media outlets at the time, also represented the Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington (ADN).
Leach declined to back away from his postgame comments, in which he called Blanchette “a sanctimonious troll.”
“I thought carefully, OK, was that a fair statement?” Leach said. “So then I thought, well, let’s see going back. In a number of articles, this individual has said plenty of derogatory things about me, plenty of derogatory things about Washington State athletics, plenty of derogatory things about Washington State football, plenty of derogatory things about our players. Then I thought, you know what? He is in fact a sanctimonious troll.
“In talking to a number of people that have coached here, plenty of people that have played here, fans of the program collectively, they nearly unanimously agreed that he is in fact a sanctimonious troll. So rethinking that, I decided I was right in the first place. He is in fact a sanctimonious troll, and I certainly don’t have to bite my tongue from saying it if I feel like it.”
In his original remarks, Leach also told Blanchette, “You can live your little meager life in your little hole and write nasty things. ...”
Leach was asked if, in retrospect, he thought he had crossed a line with those more personal comments.
“No, I don’t think any of it was crossing a line, though I am still curious about the question that I asked — who it was way back when that hurt his feelings, that created all this animosity on his part toward our program that has never shifted. No, I have no regrets whatsoever.”
Blanchette, a longtime Spokane columnist who’s enshrined in the Inland Northwest Sports Hall of Fame, declined comment.
Shipman also declined comment on Leach’s latest remarks, but said he has spoken with Chun since sending his letter.
“We had a good conversation, nothing acrimonious whatsoever,” Shipman said. “I have great respect for Pat and the work he’s doing there.”
In the letter, Shipman acknowledged Leach’s “offbeat and unusual behavior while interacting with the media is often viewed as humorous,” but also said the post-Apple Cup remarks were inappropriate.
“Mr. Leach’s behavior in this instance was boorish, unprofessional, uncalled for, and contributes to the unfortunate lack of decorum that is growing between public officials (elected and governmentally employed) and print and broadcast journalists across the country.
“The WSAB and the ADN condemn the treatment of professional journalists in this manner, particularly by an employee representing a public institution of higher learning.”
Leach said he never had heard of the two journalism organizations.
“First of all, the entire thing’s ridiculous, some entity that I’ve never heard of and nobody else has ever heard of, suggested that,” he said.
Shipman, who has been WSAB president for four years, said the organization was established in April 1935, and the ADN has been in existence for decades as well.
The Cougars (6-6) practiced for the first time since the Washington game as they began preparation for a probable bowl game. Bowl pairings will be announced Sunday. The Cougs most likely are headed to the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 21 or the Cheez-It Bowl on Dec. 27 in Phoenix.
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